Great white shark washes up in Santa Cruz

A juvenile great white shark washed up on the 26th Avenue beach in Santa Cruz, California, Friday morning. According to Pelagic Shark Research Foundation executive director Sean Van Sommeran, it was hit and killed by a boat propellor.

“Only an 11-footer, I’d hate to run into a 20-footer,” wrote Nelson. Photo: Dave “Nelly” Nelson/LQID Imagery

Van Sommeran was the first on scene Friday morning at 7 a.m., as he typically is for most shark incidents in the Santa Cruz area. He did receive a call from the sheriff at 9 p.m. Thursday night regarding a shark having washed up at 26th Avenue, but with it being dark and a higher tide, Van Sommeran was unable to locate the shark.

But in the morning he received more phone calls and was on-site conducting his investigation. As Van Sommeran told GrindTV:

“This shark was hit by a boat, it's pretty obvious. We don't know whether it was sick and then got hit by a boat or just got hit by a boat. Usually they get out of the way. And if a boat driver sees a shark 10 feet long and 700 pounds, they usually try not to hit it because it'll involve damage to the boat. It looks accidental. I don't know if it was just going fast and the shark didn't see it coming, or if it was impaired like the last one that washed up in April.”

Van Sommeran noted that there were three deep wounds on the head that were caused by a boat propellor. And sadly, the dorsal fin and a few teeth were also removed after-the-fact by a vandal once the shark had come to a rest on the beach overnight.

Photographer Dave Nelson was also on hand and had this to say about witnessing the shark and the recent heightened shark activity in Santa Cruz this year:

“There have been a lot of sharks around lately. My daughter was chased out of the water at New Brighton beach recently along with some of her friends. This whitey washed ashore in front of my house this morning at 26th Ave. That’s Sean Van Someran in the background of this photo. I once went out on a research boat with him and we had a crazy experience with one of the bigger sharks actually coming out of the water and perching itself on the back of the boat. It was like a scene out of Jaws …”

As Nelson mentioned, shark activity has seemed heightened this year. Most recently, a kayaker had his kayak attacked by a great white outside of the lineup at Steamer Lane. This prompted the shutting down of beaches in Santa Cruz for four days.

Nelson encountered this shark carcass Friday morning at 26th Ave. in Santa Cruz, California. Photo: Dave “Nelly” Nelson/LQID Imagery

And earlier in the summer another great white shark had washed up on the beach at Pleasure Point while still alive. This shark eventually passed away.

But Van Sommeran notes that there isn’t really a heightened number of sharks in the Santa Cruz area despite it feeling like that. “Aside from the pups moving north into Central California, white shark abundances are as usual — our region has been famous for having relative good abundances of white sharks since the 50s. The pups are being seen a lot, but none of the other study sites show increased numbers of sharks — aside from the dozen or so shark pups that moved in during 2015 and have been coming back every year since.”

For now, this deceased juvenile female great white will be heading to the Santa Cruz field station of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center for specimen testing. Shark pathologist Mark Okihiro will be running the tests and will determine a broader story of what happened to this unfortunate great white.

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